Jazzy game tunes to smooth out your day

The Editor-in-Chief of 1UP.com, Mr. Jeremy Parish, has recently received a lot of attention for the changing up his wardrobe. While some would label him as a hipster or Mad Men aficionado, the truth is, as they used to say, is that the clothes make the man. Once you’ve become the man, though, it’s a bit harder to justify hanging out in the lobby during the intermission of a Final Fantasy symphony, or banging your head to chiptunes in the pit at Blip festival. No, once you’ve started dressing smooth, you’ve got to act smooth too, and listen to smooth music. Just because you’re a smooth criminal, though, doesn’t mean you have to give up your gaming roots. Here’s a set of jazzy game tunes that you can shuffle in your iTunes without fear of tarnishing your pressed and cuffed image.

LA Noire Main Theme

While the game leaves much to be desired, I’m hard pressed to find anything to complain about regarding the L.A. Noire soundtrack. Appropriately jazzy and casual, it feels like it’s taken straight out of a classic noir film. It’s too bad the game is nothing like a noir.

Deja Vu Main Theme

One of the first noir-ish games in existence, Deja Vu, the story of amnesiac detective Ace Harding, creates a great atmosphere with its horn-laced soundtrack. Its static visuals and limited animation (if any), rely heavily on sound making the pictures look better, and it sure does. Lucky for us, it was ported to the NES, where we could experience the hard-boiled sounds of intrigue and mystery the way nature intended.

Mafia – Hoboken

Mafia 2 does some very interesting things, like the prison section, but ultimately pales in comparison to the original Mafia, which had a level of freedom missing from its sequel. Sometimes, I like to put on my pork pie hat and take a drive through Little Italy when this track hits the speakers.

Under a Killing Moon – Tex’s Office

Before L.A. Noire and its awkward gameplay and stunning motion capture, there was Tex Murphy. Before Tex Murphy, however, there was Blade Runner. Although the first few Tex Murphy games cribbed liberally from the Ridley Scott film, eventually, Access Software found their own voice and pushed the technological limit of the PC to make it a reality in Under a Killing Moon. It’s the roughest of the modern Tex games, but probably the most remembered. The Tex’s Office theme will remind you of the 90s via the 40s, which barely makes sense. Have another whiskey and don’t worry about it.

Maniac Mansion – Michael’s Theme

Recent Retronauts Lunch Break and podcast featured game Maniac Mansion is overflowing with fantastic music of all genres, all based around the personalities of the kids that you can control. This particular track is the theme of Michael the photographer, and brings the funk along with its smooth. I’m not sure if it’s racist on my part, or your part, but if I said that the character of Michael was an African American, would you be surprised?

Bayonetta – Gates of Hell

The Devil, as portrayed in most media, is often the type of seedy individual who hangs out all night in dive bars, enveloped in cigarette smoke, drinking whiskey by the gross.  While God is omnipotent, jovial, saintly, and full of grace, that kind of attitude doesn’t often lead to very interesting music. Harps. There’s nothing swanky about harps. Thankfully, Bayonetta’s guardian of Hell keeps the tradition alive, serving up drinks and guns with suave sophistication.

Grim Fandango – Smooth Hector

I dare you to say something bad on the Internet about Grim Fandango. Such is the (deserved) love for this game, that about 80,000 people donated 3 million dollars to Tim Shafer on the 1% chance that he might make a sequel. It’s highly improbable that circumstance will occur, but, while we wait patiently for the Double Fine Adventure to reveal itself, we can calm our nerves with this selection from Grim’s incredible soundtrack. Also, whiskey.

Sam and Max Hit the Road – Outside Headquarters

Speaking of LucasArts, it should comes as no surprise that a third game has now ended up on this list. Sam and Max Hit the Road is mostly known for its writing, but did you know that the game contained music too?! It’s true! This mellow track that riffs on the main theme is for hanging out side Sam and Max’s headquarters, thoughtfully contemplating your next move. Usually, that involves turning a cat inside out. Just play it cool, though.


Two neon-filled twists on classics from the Digipen student gallery

Okay, take Tron, put two more wheels on a light cycle, confine it to a track, give it a jet booster, a pair of wings, and the ability to jump. What in the world have you created? Why, it’s only the platforming racing game Nitronic Rush, developed by a couple of students at the Digipen Institute of Technology. Nitronic Rush reminds me of a classic, single-player arcade racer like Outrun or Cruisin’ USA. It’s all about your car and the road, as other vehicles serve only as obstacles. In lieu of cars, however, Nitronic Rush places actual obstacles, such as jumps, steps, gaps, walls, lasers, and even buzz-saws, all over the track. And let me tell you something, the level designers that made these tracks are some sadistic mother fucks. Get ready to see your car exploding more times than in a Toonces the Cat sketch. Bolstering the 1990s aesthetic is the addition of an EXTREME announcer, whom comments on such crashes and explosions with killer lines like, “WEAK SAUCE”, and, “THAT’S WHACK”. Since your boost can overheat, doing stunts lowers your heat level, enabling continuous boost usage for those that master the odd two-handed keyboard controls. The game supports an Xbox 360 controller, which I assume would make it easier, but those shits cost money. Luckily, Nitronic Rush is available for free on the Digipen website.

Our other Digipen game has a similar aesthetic, but the game play takes me back much further than the 90s. Pixi has a basic premise similar to that of Missile Command. Your precious Stars sit on the bottom of the screen. Glowing geometric shapes with cute names such as Boxi descend from the heavens to steal the Stars for reasons unknown. If this were a true Indie game, it would be revealed in the end that the Stars in question are of some great value, like components of the dreams of babies that must be recovered from the evil Pixis, lest dreams forever go unfulfilled. That remains to be seen, however. In the meantime, those boxes and circles must be destroyed, and you can destroy them by controlling the titular Pixis. Pixis are essentially single pixels with flowing tails that you have indirect control over. As you paint paths with your mouse, Pixis flow into your channel, group together, and form a great masses of pixels that will slam into any objects in their path, destroying themselves for the greater good. The bigger the mass, the more damage they’ll do. Like the defensive rockets of Missile Command, the Pixis don’t instantly attack their targets, so you must compensate for their delay by leading your targets. So go on, lead those Pixis to their deaths and destroy the dreams of babies!

BONUS:

Speaking of Missile Command, there’s an online version of it created for the 30th Anniversary of the game that has multiplayer, weapon upgrades, and MICRO-TRANSACTIONS! Eh, the new game itself is not that great; I prefer the simplicity of the original, but the Official Missile Command web site does have a lot of sweet photos of old arcade cabinets and other historical goodies, including this Atari commercial with a dope Missile Command rap:

Wreck-it Ralph looks to be the video game movie of my dreams

I’m not sure how, but Disney’s upcoming animated feature Wreck-it Ralph managed to elude my interest last year after debuting at the D23 Expo in August. I seem to have this vague recollection of hearing about a video game-themed animated movie being made, but it wasn’t until a recent post on animation blog Cartoon Brew (which you should be reading) lead me on a labyrinthine search through the Internet that I discovered some intriguing details and what might be the greatest promotional item in film history.

The movie itself has an interesting premise, but I’ll remain leery until such time as it knocks my proverbial socks off. From Disney’s press release:

“Wreck-It Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) longs to be as beloved as his game’s perfect Good Guy, Fix-It Felix (voice of Jack McBrayer). Problem is, nobody loves a Bad Guy. But they do love heroes… so when a modern, first-person shooter game arrives featuring tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun (voice of Jane Lynch), Ralph sees it as his ticket to heroism and happiness. He sneaks into the game with a simple plan — win a medal — but soon wrecks everything, and accidentally unleashes a deadly enemy that threatens every game in the arcade. Ralph’s only hope? Vanellope von Schweetz (voice of Sarah Silverman), a young troublemaking “glitch” from a candy-coated cart racing game who might just be the one to teach Ralph what it means to be a Good Guy. But will he realize he is good enough to become a hero before it’s “Game Over” for the entire arcade?”

Could be fun, right? There are no talking animals, Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman are involved, and it’s being overseen by John Lasseter. It also utilizes a pitch-perfect 8-bit art style and supposedly contains cameos from many famous video game characters like a ghost from Pac-Man and Kano, whom both take part in a group therapy session with Ralph that serves as an introduction, apparently. Unfortunately, no footage has yet to be released to the general public, but that description from Cinema Blend sounds like the comedy could be far too on the nose and forced.

While the introduction and older footage of the imaginary Wreck-It Ralph game use an 8-bit style, the majority of the film appears to use more of a modern look. No trailer or other footage has been released to the general public, but I did manage to scrape up one screen capture from the Internet and it unfortunately looks like a terrible cross between Bob the Builder and BRATZ dolls.

Luckily, even if the movie turns out to be as bad as Tron Legacy, at least one thing came out of the effort that’s worth championing. The Wreck-It Ralph arcade game cabinet is an absolutely stunning homage to 80s gaming that could be mistaken for the authentic item if it suddenly turned up at a laudromat. During the Disney expo, a full size cabinet was created to exacting detail and ran a “demo” loop of game footage that bore more that a passing resemblance to Donkey Kong.

I WANT ONE.